All the leftovers are gone; the four-day weekend is over, and this curious hybrid week - half November, half-December - begins with a happy mood, since we’re getting back to work, and we’re starting to feel a bit like Christmas. When the Neighbor Lady was putting up lights, she had her outdoor speakers playing Christmas music, and it was all vocal stuff - like, Norman Luboff Choir vocal stuff. I’ll bet it’s what she grew up with.
This season is all about what we grew up with.
It wasn’t a lot of snow, but it was enough. It fell wet and heavy, and the next morning it melted a little. This formed a mass of compacted H20 sufficient to bend metal. I know, I know, that’s ridiculous - steel doesn’t melt, and snow can’t bend metal!
Oh but it can.
Happened fast. I came home from work, and wife said “by the way,” and showed me the gazebo.
There’s just no way back from this one. Now, it happened two years ago; one support beam was bent, because the metal was not designed to support anything lighter than morning dew. The people who built it said “can we get Cheap Chinese Metal that cannot stand up to the brute force of a hummingbird fart?” and the procurement deal said “without question,” and so it came to pass that this thing was made and sold and bonuses all around for coming in at the right price point.
Someone came running in to the boss’ office after production began, panting.
Sorry to interruopt, sir, but I’ve just heard back from Testing Division. Seems the metal roof beams weaken over time. The cooling-heating cycle degrades the structural integrity.
That sounds bad, Anderson. Your name is Anderson, isn’t it?
No sir but that doesn’t matter. The roof will collapse if there’s heavy snow, because the fault points here, here, and here will suffer catastrophic failure. As you can see from this diagram - would you like to look at the diagram?
That’s all right. I could have sworn it was Anderson. Did you have a brother who worked for us who was named Anderson?
No sir I’m an only child. But it’s the design, sir, the support strut pushes down on the beam and bends it, that’s what’s fatal.
Ah, that explains it.
Yes sir. The strut -
No I mean the only child part. I understand that only children have trouble sometimes working in collaborative relationships.
They burst into rooms and interrupt things and do not go through the proper chain of authority.
Sir I am sorry, but fabrication is underway, and unless we address this today, right now, we stand to turn out thousands of gazebos whose roofs will collapse.
Well, nothing lasts forever. You spoke of a cooling-heating cycle. How many times must this so-called cycle take place for the metal to weaken?
After a year in a moderate climate - Midwest, Upper Midwest - the metal is irretrievably compromised.
A year, you say. And in that year will people enjoy the gazebo? Will they not come to think of it as part of their home, a piece of the outdoor furniture? Will not responsibility for the metal slip from us to them by the subtle psychological processes that work when one believes a thing is his?
I’m not sure what you’re getting at, sir. That sounds like a job for marketing. I am in quality control.
And you do a fine job. Our quality is under control to the best of our abilities, Anderson. But since you’re not in marketing, let me tell you something. This gazebo is special. It is aspirational. It has a designer’s name attached to it - nothing the customer will know immediately, but something they think they should know, or would know if they had a place in Florida. Do you follow? The design is simple without being spare, elegant without being ornate. The four posts have a classical heft. Its dimensions are broad, like the square shoulders of a captain of industry who yachts in his spare time. It makes people feel good about themselves to see it on their property, because it flatters their sense of themselves. Do you know what will happen when it suffers and collapses?
They will buy another one.
Not me! I refuse to buy a third. Yes; it’s the third. I am mad at myself for sending back the duplicate that was sent during the great Twitter UPS War of several years ago - long story, believe me - but here we are. So. After losing four gazebos to the elements (the first was wood, and rotted, and collapsed; the second was flimsy wire, and literally blew away; the third was this one, v. 1.0) I am going to find a wooden cabin I can install on the spot, something with windows so we can sit inside in the winter with heat and enjoy cigars and Cabin Life in our backyard.
Last year the roof ripped after a hard heavy snow, and it hung in tatters through the winter. It was depressing. This is worse, because I have to disassemble it this weekend, and there will be nothing on the back patio for months. Just as it was when we moved in.
The walls of the ship are covered with framed scenes of New York and shipboard life from eons past. I know I've shown you this one before - possibly all of these, but never quite like this! I don't know what that means.
The happy family, crusing along:
Mrs. Myra Stempl of Dimpleton, Nebraska: the time of her life. In the background, a woman who was a notorious partisan during the war but now lives a quiet life in Bayonne.
Kill me. Kill me now
He stared out at me every morning when I went to breakfast. It was enough to make me go fore and midships instead of the aft gangway, but I was alwys hungry.
I'm redoing old sites, incorporating old remarks and new. You don't care, do you? You don't remember the last time I talked about this movie.
Remember: not a review. It's a look at the images that defined an art form.
Okay, it's a review. But it's mostly pictures - compositions, faces, the stories hidden in both.
That gun's for sale. This one?
Oh so it's like the Uber, but for guns.
"This Gun For Hire" (1942) was the first of 49,043 pairings of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, or so it seemed. From what I read - on the internet! - he didn't like her by the time they filmed the last one, and once you know her history you can guess why.
Ladd is a killer named Raven. He’s the worst kind of gunsel: a creep. You can tell the way he looks when he checks his gun. It's the only emotion he's showed, and it's not a healthy one.
We see him get ready in his cheap room while a merry tune plays on a piano on another floor - a nice way of adding some music while underscoring his disconnection from humanity.
Oh, but here comes the sultry cleaning lady. . Just in case we don’t know how much of a heel he is, he slaps her around sending her right into Spitting Tigress Mode:
Ah, but why did he slap her? Because she abused the cat he was feeding. It’s one of those details that keeps you from totally loathing the killer, even after he does something truly horrifying. (It’s not shown, which is worse; it’s one of the most gut-clenching moments in noir, if you ask me. I won’t tell you. You’ll know.) A guy what likes a kitty ain’t all bad, see? There’s hope. The film requires us to believe he could act for good. Not be good - he’s rotten. But act good for the right reason? Yes.
Where does he live? Dumpsville:
He goes to a job and kills a blackmailer who was going to spill government secrets. He also kills woman who got in the way, but he gives a ball to a handicapped girl. Add the cat, and he's not completely evil. It's complicated.
Ah, the obligatory plot-point newspaper! Shall we take look?
"New Living Blood-A Reported Discovered"? Go ahead - speculate.
We meet our Hired Killer's boss:
The brilliant Laird Cregar.
He was a young man when he made this film, and while it's not his best work - the role doesn't ask for much - it's still Laird Cregar, and that gives any picture a boost.
Just to show you how deformed the killer's soul has become, it’s manifested itself in his wrist:
B) When, exactly, did he sit for that picture?
D) It's actually an important detail in understanding the character. As for his reluctant team-mate, thrown into Ladd's orbit by the demands of Noir, well, she has deformed hands too:
Eggs, growin' right out of her fingers! Horrifying. Actually, she's a musician, an does a routine while singing a song in a strange flat style.
Without going into detail - because you don't need it - she gets Caught in a Web, as these things do. We care because man, she's gorgeous:
I suppose it depends on your tastes, but in this movie she has a gosh-shucks, decent, guileless quality that seems very American, at least for the times. Her personal life was different - there’s a surprise, isn’t it - and she seems to have been stubborn, self-hating, arrogant, and all sorts of toxic self-concepts that don’t mix well. Ended up as a bartender in a cheap New York hotel, of all things, then died of the sauce. Damned shame.
Anyway: towards the end our Not-Hero-But-Almost has morphed into horrid insect form:
As for the plot, it has to do with stolen poison-gas formulas sold to the Axis by that staple of the times, the Bitter Wheelchair-Bound Industrialist. (Cregar is his employee.) To stop the deal and bring down justice, Alan Ladd, the Killer, has to throw his lot in with his country, as well as sacrifice himself for the gal who loves the cop devoted to bringing him in. Tall order, short man.
it’s chock full of noir; one of the greatest shots has Ladd running through a trainyard, and it reminds you how . . . well, wooden the world used to be. Also full of steam and smoke.
Verdict: a B movie with A moments. It would be good enough without Lake, but she makes it something else - namely, a movie with Veronica Lake. I'm sure her charms are lost on some, but in a genre full of smoky molls and femme fatales, she provides a rare note of understated kindness.
As I said, they did three movies together; next week, the second.
As I always say: good to be back in the Bleat Groove again. It's a bit strange going back to this template, since I've been working on the January 2017 site over the weekend. So many small tweaks no one will notice or care about! But tweak we must, for a better New York. As they said.